Knowledge of local heritage protection measures and support for these are often lacking, according to a recent Heritage Council of Victoria report. The report suggests this points to a need for public education.
The report, State of Heritage Review: Local Heritage 2020, includes Australia-wide comparisons. It is part of an ongoing assessment of conservation approaches by the Heritage Council, an independent statutory body.
Local heritage is the mechanism for conserving the vast majority of places of significance across Australia. In Victoria, local heritage overlays protect 186,000 properties. In New South Wales, local environment plans cover 40,000 primary sites and thousands more of lesser importance.
Significantly, the report identifies that knowledge and support for heritage measures are often lacking in the community, but does not speculate why. The report does not consider (and it’s beyond its terms of reference) engagement with the potential of heritage – what it could be for people.
In 1972, under the Liberal Hamer government, in line with international trends, Victoria became the first Australian state to introduce historic buildings legislation. Two years later, the federal Labor Whitlam government proposed the objective of heritage was to safeguard “the things that you keep”
The reliance on these ostensibly objective and seemingly stable instruments creates distinctive challenges. Integrated with the planning system, local heritage too often seems to conflict with evolving questions of development, land use, ownership, sustainability, participation and design.
Local heritage can promote community empowerment, social and racial justice, and sustainability. People-centred conservation is a way to place the community at the heart of heritage.
See more of Dr Lesh’s work here.
James Lesh Research Fellow, Melbourne School of Design, The University of Melbourne
Kali Myers Research Associate, The University of Melbourne